There are some things you can’t think your way through.

As lawyers, we tend to believe that if we just think about something hard enough, we can solve it. But there are some things that you can’t think your way through—and that’s especially true when it comes to anxiety.

As a lawyer, I believed that everything was simply a case of mind over matter.

I’m an anxious lawyer. Or, more accurately, I’m an anxious former lawyer.

In may early years of practice, I didn’t really know how anxiety worked. I honestly didn’t even know that the anxiety I experienced was clinical and not normal.

As I’ve learned about anxiety in general, and my own anxiety in particular, I’ve learned that there are some things you can’t think your way through.

There are some things you can’t think your way through—and that’s okay.

In episode 040 of the podcast, I’m sharing two reasons that I’ll be doing things a little differently on the podcast for a bit, and why it’s important to remember that there are some things that you can’t think your way through.

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Episode transcript

TFLP 040: There are Some Things You Can’t Think Your Way Through


Hi, and welcome to The Former Lawyer Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Cottrell, and on this show I interview former lawyers to hear their inspiring stories about how they left the law behind to find careers and lives that they love. Let’s get right to the show. 


Hey, everyone! This week on the podcast, we’re going to be doing things a little bit differently. And we’re going to be doing things a little bit differently for the next few weeks. 

There are a couple of reasons for that. 

One is: I don’t know about you, but I personally just do not have the time to listen to podcasts right now in the same way that I typically would.

So I’m recording this on Saturday, May 9, we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the pockets of time that I typically would use to listen to podcast episodes have vanished, largely because we have two young kids who are almost five and almost two.

And every time I looked at my podcast feed in Overcast, I just felt overwhelmed and eventually ended up having to just delete a bunch of episodes. 

So I imagine there are a lot of people listening who feel similarly or are having similar experiences, and I don’t want to overwhelm you with content.

And I also don’t want you to miss some of the interviews that I’ve done recently, because they’re really, really good, and I’m super excited to share them. 

But I think we all just have less capacity right now, which leads me to my second reason for why things are going to be a little bit different for the next couple of weeks.

And that is that I have finally come to grips with the reality that I cannot function or produce at the same level right now during the pandemic without childcare, that I could previously with childcare. 

And it’s not just a childcare issue, it’s also the fact that, as I’ve shared on the podcast before, I have a clinical anxiety disorder, and some of the things that help me manage the symptoms of that disorder are routine and sleep.

And those have been pretty seriously disrupted as a result of the schedule disruptions from the pandemic.

And I realized that I needed to start walking the talk, because we talk a lot on here—I talk a lot on here—about the importance of knowing your limits, understanding your mental health, and having compassion for yourself. 

And so that’s what I’m doing right now, and what we’ll be doing in the next couple of weeks.

So I’m going to be sharing very short episodes where I share just a thought or two that I think would be helpful to you all who are listening right now, where we all are.

Once things are slightly more normal then we will return to our more regularly scheduled programming.

And the thing I wanted to talk to you about today actually is related to this second point, which is that a couple weeks ago on the show, Dr. Jan Newman talked about the reality that there are some things that you can’t think your way through, and that this is something that lawyers have a really hard time believing; that lawyers or people who went to law school or have practiced as lawyers in the past tend to have this idea that everything should be able to be mind over matter, they should be able to think their way through any problem or issue. 

And that’s simply not true for us as humans.

We have nervous systems, we have bodies that know and experience things even if our minds are trying to tell them something else.

So you can have an activated nervous system—and this is something Dr. Newman talked about—even if you are telling yourself, “I’m safe, I’m not stressed,” even if you don’t feel emotionally or mentally stressed, your body knows things that your mind does not. 

And that’s something that I’ve had to learn as someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder.

There are times where my nervous system is dysregulated.

And I think this applies to all of us right now, in the pandemic.

I think we all are experiencing a situation where we may not feel particularly stressed, in a certain sense, or we may be trying to tell ourselves, you know, “Don’t stress, I’m safe.”

But the reality is that there are some things that you can’t think your way through and a collective trauma, like a global pandemic, is one of them. 

And so if you’re experiencing diminished capacity, you know, not being able to do as much as you typically would; if you’re struggling in ways that you maybe didn’t expect, I just wanted to say, I get it.

I’ve been there; I am there. There are a lot of lawyers experiencing that; there are a lot of people experiencing that right now. 

And it can be very hard as the type of person or personality who chooses to go to law school and practice law to be compassionate towards yourself.

But being compassionate is what is really going to allow you to move through whatever you’re experiencing. And I just wanted to remind you of that. 

So, very short episode today. I hope you all are well and I will talk to you next week. 


Thanks so much for listening today. I absolutely love getting to share these stories with you. If you haven’t yet, subscribe to the show, and come on over to to get even more support and resources in your journey out of the law. Until next time, have a great week!